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What are Community Supported Enterprises and why are they important?
CSEs come in a variety of forms, including restaurants, general stores, cafes, and pubs, and reflect the needs and desires of an individual community. The Peacham Café sells coffee and baked goods, but also has a refrigerator and freezer stocked with local products. The Putney General Store carries a large variety of typical grocery items but also sells coffee, prepared foods and freshly made sandwiches. In both cases, the buildings and equipment are owned by community-based organizations.

Through a combination of fundraising and grants communities are able to purchase the desired real estate and equipment with little to no debt. Since a community has already raised the funds and own the building prior to the opening of the CSE, they are able to lease the space at an affordable rate to the right operator for the job. This also allows the income from the lease to go towards maintenance expenses rather than paying down a mortgage. The turnkey operation provided by a CSE ensures a minimal upfront investment by the operator, allowing them to focus on providing the necessary services to the community at a reasonable rate rather than paying off the debt associated with starting a new business. This low initial investment contributes to the sustainability and health of the CSE.

Community supported enterprises are key contributors to Vermont’s unique landscape. CSEs reflect a community’s commitment to its long-term economic vitality, sense of place, and quality of life. They are an important part of an individual community’s brand as well as a significant contributor to the Vermont brand. CSEs also serve as a vehicle to share Vermont’s locally grown and processed food products as well as traditional groceries and goods to help meet the needs of the entire community.

For information about current funding for CSE’s, please visit the Northeast Heritage Economy Program.

Peacham Cafe, Peacham, VT

Community Supported Agriculture has become a familiar part of Vermont’s economic landscape. Today, there are similar models emerging in other business fields– “Community Supported Enterprises.” This concept responds to the idea that many businesses, especially in Vermont’s most rural areas, play an irreplaceable part in community life that isn’t captured in the daily sales transactions. Customers and community members are willing to honor that role through creative financial support that can take many forms. — Helen Labun Jordan, Vermont Agricultural Development Coordinator, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

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